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Like most great things out here in the American West, Kiowa Hunting Service comes from humble beginnings.

“[Kiowa] started in 1988, as an FFA project,” owner Mike Barraclough said. “Where (my brother and I) grew up in New Mexico, we were friends with a ranch owner out of Raton. The name of the ranch was Kiowa Land and Cattle. When my brother was in FFA he had to do an agri-business project. We had two antelope tags that the rancher had given us, so Kiowa Hunting started as an FFA project with two antelope tags back in 1988.”

2017 marks the 29th year of consecutive operations for Kiowa. For all of those years, Barraclough’s been involved in some capacity with one of the West’s most well-known outfits.

“I was ten when this started,” he said. “I’ve grown up doing this. That’s what I know.”

Since the FFA project in ’88, Kiowa has expanded to now offer hunts in Colorado, New Mexico, and Old Mexico. They spent some time in Texas and Oklahoma, but have since moved back to their roots.

While antelope got them started, it’s a different animal that drives business for them today – elk. With over 800,000 acres of private land access, and all the public hunting grounds in New Mexico, Colorado, and Old Mexico, Kiowa Hunting Services is your one-stop shop for that once-in-a-lifetime Western big game hunt.

Antelope

The Animals

Elk drive the business at Kiowa, but the outfit also offers mule and Coues deer, antelope, bighorn sheep, ibex, oryx, Barbary sheep, and Merriam turkey hunts as well. Of the numerous clients Kiowa will guide in 2017, about 80% of them will be chasing elk.

Trophy elk are harvested yearly, with some units in Colorado presenting hunters with the opportunity to see – and shoot at – 320 – 340” bulls on a regular basis.

Big Goat

If you want something different then elk, though, the Ibex hunts at Kiowa are second to none.

“Our ibex guys are phenomenal,” said Barraclough. “I think of the top ten archery SCI records, we have five of the ten right now. We’re extremely good at that.”

Big Ram

Sheep hunts can be a blast as well, and some of Barraclough’s most unforgettable hunts have come chasing sheep in both the West and Alaska.

A Coues deer hunt is one of the best you can go on if you’re looking for arguably the biggest challenge in Western big game hunting.

“Coues deer hunting is fun,” Barraclough said. “It gets addicting, it gets under your skin. You glass the same patch of dirt for hours on end and then there’s a good deer standing there.”

Coues deer test the patience of any hunter, since finding them requires so much time sitting in one spot and glassing a mountainside, looking for the slightest hint that a Coues deer is hiding in plain sight.

The Cost

One thing that helps set Kiowa apart from other outfitters is their willingness to take clients looking for a DIY or self-guided trip.

“We’ve been at this game for a long time, so we’ve kind of got it figured out on the customer service end,” Barraclough said. “We offer a lot of things for a lot of people. Everything from a $10,000 elk hunt to a $1500 elk hunt.”

With elk being the main draw at Kiowa, the packages for hunting are widely varied. A guided private-land hunt in New Mexico with 2 hunters and 1 guide runs $5,000 plus an 8% tax. That same hunt in Colorado runs $8,000 per person. In comparison, public land hunts go for as little as $3,750 and range up to $5,200.

Kiowa has the harvest and success rate to back up their prices. On private land elk hunts, Barraclough said they’re currently looking at a 95-96% success rate. But, as he noted, “Each hunt is its own beast. It all depends on the unit.”

Huge Bull

The Experience

Aside from the great success rates, huge tracts of land available for hunting, and the opportunity to see some once-in-a-lifetime animals, Kiowa sets itself apart from other outfitters with their camp experience. As anyone who’s hunted knows, it’s impossible to control the animals. The only thing you can control is camp, and that’s what Kiowa focuses a good deal of their energy on.

“We can control camp,” Barraclough said. “You make sure there’s good food there, it’s comfortable, it’s warm. Make sure everyone has everything they need. That’s the only thing you can control when it comes to hunting. I can’t stop a blizzard, but I can make sure that if you’re in a blizzard the camp or house you’re in is comfortable.”

Barraclough knows firsthand the value of a good camp when bad weather crops up. He went to college in Alaska, and during a Dall sheep hunt, a pretty ferocious storm hit his group. He was spending the hunt in the first tent he’d ever bought – a $500 Marmot tent.

“It crushed my soul to pay that much money for that thing, until the snowstorm came in and two of us were in this tent for four days,” Barraclough said. “We were perfectly fine.”

Kiowa runs their camps in the same fashion from state to state, so you could walk into an elk camp in Colorado and New Mexico and know exactly how things are supposed to run and what to expect. The outfitter makes it a point to set up camp in an easy-access area as well.

“The problem we found with packing in is that you’re isolated to a certain spot,” Barraclough said. “You pack in, and you’re there. If the elk aren’t there, you’re burning days of getting back out and setting things back up. It’s easier to spend your time hunting than moving camp. You can almost drive a car to anywhere we do a camp at.”

Camp consists of either large walled canvas tents or trailers, depending on the area you’re hunting. Tents will have light, heaters, cots, pads, and plenty of racks for hanging and drying clothes.

Oh, and you’ll have more than enough food, too. Your day will start around 4am – you have to get up early to see the big bulls, after all – and you’ll come back to camp around 9 or 10 in the morning. From there you’ll eat a huge brunch and have the choice to either go back out and hunt midday, or wait until the afternoon.

Exotics

In the end, the type of hunt you have and the experience you get is entirely dependent on what you want. Kiowa makes it a point to tailor hunts to the exact needs, abilities, and desires of their clients.

“The way we look at it, the client has the option,” Barraclough said. “They could’ve taken their family on a vacation, or they could’ve gone elk hunting. They chose to do this instead of something with their family. This is a once-in-a-lifetime trip. The kill is only a small part of the hunt, so we want them to enjoy the entire hunt.”

Kiowa has the resources available to help you apply for and draw tags that offer the best opportunity for what type of hunt you want. If you’re fine with only seeing a handful of bulls but want a shot at a trophy, Kiowa will tell you exactly which hunts to apply for. If you don’t draw on public land, their private land access acts as a backup to ensure that no matter what happens, you get to go on the hunt you want.

From the Field

Kiowa guides anyone who wants to – and is able – to hunt, but Barraclough has a special place in his heart for guiding kids or folks who are just getting into the sport.

“We’re running numerous clients this year, and everybody’s always excited when they harvest something,” he said. “When you do that year in and year out, you don’t always get that true emotion of that first kill, or that first deer, or that first elk.”

It was on a hunt with a young girl that Barraclough had one of his most memorable hunting experiences to date. Just a few years ago he was on an oryx hunt booked by a father and the father’s daughter.

“She was ten, maybe eleven,” Barraclough said. “Myself and my dad were guiding them. They only had brought one gun in between them. We were driving around and saw a group of oryx. It was gonna be a long stalk (to get a shot on them), so her dad decides to take the gun and go hunt these oryx.

“So her and I are hanging out in the truck waiting for them. About an hour goes by and (her dad and my dad) call in on the radio that they wounded one, so we drive around and kind of get to where we can see them and run into this other group of oryx. Of course, her dad has her gun.

“So I had my gun in the truck, which is a .338. So I ask the daughter, do you wanna shoot one with my gun? She says sure, I’ll shoot it. So we circle around and get in position on these oryx, get on the gun, go through the motions. By that time, a truck drives by and pushes the oryx a different way, so we circle around and park in this ditch and walk up on this high spot. I tell her they should be coming this way.

“30 seconds later here they come, they are 50 yards from us, going and turning when they see us. As the last one turns, she shoots it and rolls it, and it gets up and runs away from us over the hill. I ask her how it was and she goes, that was great!

“We go over the hill, cross the road and go over the next hill. At this time, we notice that there is a game warden sitting in his truck watching us. We top out on the hill and the oryx is standing there. She shoots it, hits it a little further back, and it runs off over the next hill. We move on, we’re slowly trailing it out when we become aware there’s now a game warden and an Military Police officer sitting up on the hill, in their trucks watching us. We get up over the next hill, locate the oryx and she shoots it again causing it to travel over another hill. We get over the next hill and we stop, locate it and get her on the sticks - the oryx is about 200 yards away.

“She shoots the oryx and it just drops. Sometime in the timeframe between the first and last shot, the group of MPs and game wardens had grown from one or two to quite an audience. When she shot it, hit it and it dropped for the final time, you heard this eruption of cheers behind us. We go down to the oryx and are taking some pictures. She’s standing with her oryx and the .338 that she had shot it with. The barrel is about four inches taller than she is. By the time we get to the range gate to check out, there’s a crowd of people waiting for her, to congratulate her.”

Those types of hunts are what keeps the job vibrant and enjoyable, at least for someone like Barraclough who’s spent almost his entire life doing this sort of thing.

If you’re ready for an adventure like this one, go ahead and get in touch with Kiowa today to get your hunt booked.

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Big Bull

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